FIELD OF INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to providing a means for a gaming machine player to play a selected gaming machine at a substantially faster pace while requiring less repetitive motion. More particularly, a gaming machine is designed or retrofitted with an internal device that causes multiple game plays in response to a gaming machine button being constantly pressed rather than requiring a player to press and release the gaming button one time per play. The present invention eliminates the need to release the button—such that the button may be pressed once for one play or held pressed indefinitely for repeated play—in order to increase the number of games played in a given time interval. In a second embodiment, the internal device is linked to a cable extending from said gaming machine such that a button on the end of said cable activates the game. In a third embodiment, the internal device is linked to a cable extending from said machine such that portions of the entire button deck may be extendable.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART
The popularity of electronic gaming machines has exploded during the past decade. In fact, electronic gaming machines now account for a majority of casino revenue, as well as, gaming equipment manufacturers' recurring revenue. With such a popularity boom, the casino industry continually seeks methods for further increasing the actual playing time of electronic gaming machines. Both video poker machines and slot machines are routinely being improved in one way or another to attract more players. In particular, slot machines have been recently combined with video graphics and/or bonus games designed to maximize player interest.
Besides attracting players to electronic gaming machines, casinos further seek to encourage sustained and rapid play of its machines. After all, the longer and faster a player plays a particular gaming machine, the more money in theory a casino is going to earn or win. To reduce the non-gaming time associated with particular gaming machines, manufacturers have outfitted many machines with a “Bet Max Coins” button that allows players to quickly and efficiently play the maximum number of coins available and activate the machine by pressing a single panel button. Prior to the implementation of the Bet Max Coins button players were required to press a “Bet One Coin” button successive times to wager multiple coins and then required to press a Spin button or pull an arm to activate the machine. Further, even the most novice players understand that the highest single jackpot is only available on Max Coin play and that most progressive jackpots are tied to Max Coin play.
Although for each play of the machine the time interval saved by the Bet Max Coins button versus the Bet One Coin and Spin button combination may be trivial, the overall time is quite significant. For example, should a player remain at a machine for one hour, play maximum coins (e.g. three coins) by using the Bet One Coin and Spin buttons, and generate an average of ten plays per minute, the player will generate 600 total plays of the machine during the one hour of play. However, if during each play the player could have saved one second by simply pressing the Bet Max Coins button, the player has, by not using the Bet Max Coins button, wasted 600 seconds or ten minutes of time over the one hour of play. Based on the one second savings per play, the player is now able to generate 12 plays per minute or 720 (12 plays per minute×60 minutes) plays per hour which is a total of 120 additional plays during the one hour. At a one dollar machine with a payout percentage of 96% the casino has in theory lost $14.40 (0.04×120 spins×$3.00 per spin) over the one hour of play. It is easy to see that a small delay in activating the machine between plays results in large lost revenue to casinos having hundreds or thousands of gaming machines.
Although the implementation of the Bet Max Coins button has increased the number of plays per hour, there is also a drawback with the Bet Max Coins button in practice. The button, once pressed, is intentionally programed (masked) to be inoperable until the reels stop spinning and any winnings are paid. In practice, the Bet Max Coins button illuminates after each play of the machine to signify the machine is ready for play. In reality, players do not always press the Bet Max Coins button upon illumination. Players may be surveying the casino floor, talking with an adjacent gaming machine player or an observing friend, or may be preoccupied in countless other ways. The common result is that the gaming machine is not being played to its optimum potential.
Certain attempts have been made to increase the playing time associated with gaming machines. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,318,721 to Randell et al., describes an apparatus for detecting the illumination of a player-operated machine button. The Randell disclosure seeks to increase actual gaming machine play time by automatically causing a gaming machine button to be pressed when ready as evidenced by an illuminated button. The apparatus is external and partially encompasses a gaming machine button such that upon illumination a cam mechanism automatically presses the gaming machine button. Unfortunately, the Randell invention prevents conventional play, involves moving parts which tend to fail and is slow to react to the illumination. The Randell patent appears to have value only as a slot machine testing device rather than as a customer played game.
The present invention guarantees optimum electronic gaming machine play during any given time interval by automatically causing said machine to play immediately when ready. A panel button that is continuously pressed by a player causes a gaming machine switch to trigger activation of said game repeatedly until said button is released. The identical panel button may also be used to play the gaming machine in the conventional manner (i.e. press, release, press, release, etc.). In a preferred embodiment, a button integrated on an end of a cable release provides a convenient and comfortable means for practicing the present invention.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
An object of the present invention is to provide a means for increasing the number of plays of a gaming machine per given time interval.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a means for complying with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) by implementing a simple, parallel-connected, extendable Max Coins switch for persons unable to reach a gaming machine button deck or for those persons for which reaching the button deck is difficult especially in a repetitive manner.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a means for a gaming machine player to maximize the number of games played during a given time interval by continuously pressing a gaming machine button.
Another object of the present invention is to provide an alternate means for a gaming machine player to maximize the number of games played during a given time interval by continuously pressing a button integrated on a gaming machine cable extension.
Another object of the present invention is to provide an alternative means for a gaming machine player to maximize the number of games played during a given time interval by continuously pressing a button integrated on a gaming machine cable extension while leaving unchanged the standard button configuration.
Another object of the present invention is a seamless integration of a repeating switch which can be fabricated in a new gaming machine or retrofitted in an existing machine.
Another object of the present invention is to minimize the repetitive motion experienced by a gaming machine player thereby increasing the likelihood of longer play.
Yet another object of the present invention is to avoid regulatory gaming issues by implementing the present invention as a secondary device not affecting the outcome of the particular gaming machine thereby eliminating the need for a long approval process conducted by gaming authorities.
DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION
Although any electronic gaming machines including video poker machines and slot machines, will benefit from the present invention, slot machines are the preferred gaming machine and are discussed exclusively throughout. Traditional slot machines, whether having mechanical reels or video depicted reels, include a button panel system having a button panel assembly. A button panel supporting a plurality of button assemblies is mounted below a slot machine display. For illustrative purposes U.S. Pat. No. 6,102,394 to Wurz et al., describes a button panel assembly for gaming machines as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 thereof. To play the slot machine, a player inputs a wager and then causes the slot reels to spin by means of panel buttons or a slot machine arm. Note that Wurz et al., attempts to demonstrate a “self-contained, universal, button panel” rather than one that is extendible.
The button assemblies on the button panel are electronically connected to a gaming unit, namely a microprocessor, inside of the slot machine by wires. A player may press various panel button assemblies causing the gaming unit to perform certain labeled functions, such as cash out, select pay lines, enter a wager and spin the reels. Each button assembly typically includes a variety of elements, such as a button, an actuator, a switch, and a light source. The actuator, switch and light source are generally positioned beneath the button. The actuator is coupled to the button and disposed to actuate the switch in response to pressing the button. The light source is positioned to illuminate the button.
A majority of slot machines include at least buttons labeled “Bet One Coin”, “Bet Max Coins” and “Spin.” There are two common methods of slot machine play. In a first method, a player presses the Bet One Coin button a number of times equal to a desired wager. Therefore, should the player desire to wager two coins the player presses the Bet One Coin button two times. Thereafter, the player presses the Spin button causing the slot machine reels to activate. If desired, the player may play two coins on a second play by a player simply pressing the Spin button which automatically plays the previous number of coins wagered. Alternatively, the player may reduce or increase the number of coins played each successive play by pressing the Bet One Coin button the proper number of times and thereafter pressing the Spin button. In a second method, the Bet Max Coins button permits the player to wager the maximum number of coins by simply pressing the button one time. Once the Bet Max Coins button is pressed, the gaming machine automatically activates the reels without the need for the player to press the Spin button. Players almost exclusively play the maximum number of coins to receive better percentage pay outs and to participate in progressive jackpots. In fact, slot machine pay tables are designed to make play based on less than maximum coins statistically undesirable to the player.
A significant drawback to the Bet Max Coins, Bet One Coin and Spin buttons is that once pressed they are inoperable until the reels stop spinning, the player is paid in coins or credited a winning amount and the button is, once again, illuminated by the light source indicating the machine is re-set. Once illuminated, the player may then press said button to begin the next play. A quick trek through any casino reveals slot machine players repeatedly pressing and releasing the Bet Max Coins. In most instances, players rest their hand on the button panel assembly adjacent to the Bet Max Coins button in anticipation of the next game play. The method described not only consumes valuable gaming time but can also fatigue a player's arm and/or hands due to the unorthodox position of the arm and repetitive motion of the hand. For instance, gaming time is consumed if a player is surveying the casino floor or otherwise preoccupied and fails to press the desired available button in an immediate fashion upon illumination. Although each individual lost time interval may be small, the summation of lost time becomes significant to operators of gaming machines (see example above). With the present invention, the machine is played at an optimal level as long as an appropriately labeled “repeat” or “rapid play” button is pressed constantly.
To avoid potential customer complaints, the repeat spin button must stop as instantaneously as the non-repeating switch when the button is released. In this manner, customer complaints that they did mean to continue pressing the button are eliminated. It is noted that the larger the machine pay out, the more time required to reactivate the Max Coins button. Therefore, at most a customer may realize the loss of one Max Coins wager. Further, machine pay outs take a measurable amount of time so customers will have ample time to stop pressing the repeat button.
Although not a regulatory requirement, as described above a good embedded Real Time Operating System (RTOS) programmer will bitmask all button inputs to be inactive during the spin cycle of the machine. The inactivity forces a machine into a determinate state and reduces the testing of anomalous performance. Machine cheats randomly slap buttons on newly released machines searching for vulnerabilities.
To eliminate the inherent lost gaming time associated with traditional slot machines, the present invention encourages continuous optimum slot machine play by simply pressing the repeat button in a continuous fashion. The present invention further removes the need for a player to press, release, press, release, and so on, the Bet One Coin, Bet Max Coins and/or Spin buttons. The repeat button may be an independently labeled button or it may replace the Bet Max Coins button depending on the manufacturer and whether it is a new machine or retrofitted on an existing machine.
A slot machine is triggered internally by completing an electrical connection by use of a switch. In a traditional slot machine, pressing the Bet Max Coins or Spin button causes a switch arm or contact to complete one or more electrical connections thereby sending signals to a gaming machine processor that instructs said reels to spin and button lamps to turn off until the reels have stopped spinning and the player has been paid. Activation arms (i.e “one arm bandits”) also provide means for activating the game. Current gaming machines are inoperable during the Spin cycle and the payment cycle. Once the payment cycle is complete the gaming machine is re-set and the button lamps illuminate indicating that said machine is again operable. When incorporated in a slot machine, a printed circuit board (“PCB”) of the present invention bridges between switch outputs and the microprocessor inputs. By pressing the repeat button constantly, the PCB is activated and causes an internal switch to open and close at a pre-defined rate. Therefore, once the game is re-set and operable, the next closing of the switch activates the machine. In this manner, the signal to spin the reels is received by the processor in a nearly optimum fashion, without human delay, and continues in this manner until the player releases the repeat button. The present invention also provides machine play in a traditional method by pressing and then immediately releasing the repeat button-in effect disarming the repeat mode.
In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the repeat button is activated by a button on a cable, similar to a rugged camera cable release, extending from the slot machine. The cable extending from the slot machine is connected to the PCB and allows the player to efficiently and comfortably activate the slot machine from multiple locations (e.g. near the player's lap area).
A slot machine switch typically has four connections including lamp power, lamp ground, switch common and switch normally open. Conventionally, pressing a button on a slot machine panel causes an actuator to press a switch arm or lever thus completing one or more electrical connections with the internal components, namely a microprocessor, of the slot machine. The completed connection is in effect a signal to the microprocessor to activate the game. Once the button is pressed, the button panel becomes inoperable until the game ends, the player is paid and the game resets. A PCB of the present invention is integrated or bridged between the slot machine switch corresponding to a gaming machine button labeled repeat button or the like, and the microprocessor. By applying constant pressure to the repeat button, the arm or lever of said slot machine switch completes the one or more electrical connections with the microprocessor. As long as the repeat button is pressed, the PCB continuously causes a switch to open and close thereby completing the one or more electrical connections with the microprocessor. Therefore, as soon as the gaming machine is reset from the previous play, one of the PCB caused switch closures activates a new gaming machine play. As long as the repeat button is pressed, the switch continues to move from an opened to a closed position at a pre-defined rate (e.g. one half second), insuring that an activation signal is almost immediately sent to the processor upon the gaming machine's re-set. Any delay is limited to the amount of time between the final switch closure prior to the gaming machine's re-set. In a second embodiment, the PCB caused switch open and closure rate increases as the repeat button is constantly pressed for a pre-established period of time resulting in even more rapid and optimal play.